Robot Princess’ Beau Alessi talks Tentacles.
by Walter Price
Remember that time frame when Sebadoh, Dinosaur Jr., Pixies, Violent Femmes and the like, reigned supreme in your disenchanted world? What if you could find bits and pieces of those glorious history makers woven in and out of one dynamite album? I feel you leaning in, the band is Robot Princess and their album is Tentacles (Jam Eater Records).
This brilliantly quirky in the right corners indie rock gem is driven by the songwriter(s) particular views of life’s trappings, love and (more importantly) pop culture. It could possibly take a lifetime to decipher all that is Tentacles. Which is great, but to help us along Robot Princess’ Beau Alessi stopped by to go track x track.
This one is inspired by Claudia Kishi from the Babysitter’s Club series of novels, who was kind of a proto-hipster with these crazy outfits. I wanted to tell the story of a girl who was spectacularly cool and confident in her youth, but then who got kind of shook when she reached the struggles of early adulthood. And the song takes place as she’s starting to bounce back from that.
This is another character study, with the narrator singing to a cool friend who’s been through all sorts of misfortune. It’s kind of outdated at this point but I was thinking about the tabloid fascination with the “Teen Moms.”
The title here came from an accidental autocorrect on my phone, for “K Mart.” I liked those syllables a lot. It’s about the contradiction between admiring someone’s independence and wanting to be part of their life. I try to be reassuring – “life stinks sometimes but we can be ourselves, and that’s maybe enough.”
I read a book — The Search for the Giant Squid, by Richard Ellis – and became fascinated by the idea that there are these unworldly, monstrous creatures under the sea. And the idea that for hundreds of years, no one’s ever been able to catch or observe a living one – all we’ve had were sailors’ stories and giant squid corpses that washed up on the shore or were found in whale bellies. And the idea that, again and again, marine biologists were driven to go on these dangerous, thankless quests to search for these things, always failing.
Catherine wrote this one, and says “I wrote White Noise when I was sixteen and in a very dramatic relationship with a boy who wasn’t so nice. At the time, everything was doom and gloom (ugh teenagers are so annoying). It’s been fun to bring White Noise back to life with Robot Princess, minus all the teen angst.”
This was written by my friend Mike Shoykhet, who is a deeply talented lyricist and songwriter. His band Pear Claw recorded this for an album called Crosstown Chanson. I don’t want to interpret someone else’s lyrics, but I love how the imagery moves from kinda silly genre stuff (zombies, gangsters) to beautiful and mysterious genre stuff (the sphinx, mermaids). All the lyrics here have a wonderful mystery to them.
We originally were set to only record seven songs for this album, but I thought an album called ~TENTACLES~ should have eight tracks, for obvious reasons. I wrote Neon Ocean the morning that we went into the studio, which is very much not my usual process. We’re normally very against acoustic guitar – the rule is that it’s only allowed on Robot Princess records if there’s also a nauseating feedback drone in the background, I guess.
My thinking is that the two characters in this song are criminals who got away with some kind of big heist. But the song takes place after all that – they’re in some remote resort somewhere, laying low. And I guess the song captures their headspace as the initial thrill fades and gives way to mistrust, boredom, alienation, and resentment. They come out triumphant at the end though – instead of being destroyed by realizing that money doesn’t make you happy, it’s about saying “oops” and “in that case, let’s just be chill with each other.”
German version also available!